The Fitzgerald farm in Effin, Co. Limerick was the venue for the Teagasc/NDC Milk Quality Farm Walk. Edward and Olivia Fitzgerald were awarded the top prize in the 2013 NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards and hosted the event, which was organised by Teagasc.

The event highlighted the importance of milk quality to the production of quality Irish milk products which are sold around the world, while also outlining the steps taken by the Fitzgerald family over a number of years to achieve high milk quality standards. The Fitzgerald’s are milk suppliers to Kerry agribusiness.

Commenting on the NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards, Zoe Kavanagh, Chief Executive of NDC, pointed out that the Awards “recognise the hard work of Irish dairy farmers and their commitment to the rigorous standards necessary to produce top quality milk. Today’s event, as well as the overall NDC and Kerrygold Quality Milk Awards, allow us to show consumers the excellent standards of pasture-based dairy farming practised by Irish dairy farmers.”

John Donworth, Teagasc Advisory Regional Manager for Kerry and Limerick, highlighted the high standards set by the Fitzgerald family in terms of milk quality. “This farm has consistently produced milk with low SCC and TBC levels over the last 20 years. This hasn’t happened by chance, but by getting the basics right in terms of milk quality. There were no extraordinary activities or fancy ideas, just common sense and efficient sustainable dairy farming over a number of years. The Fitzgerald farm is an example of what can be achieved by an efficient medium-sized family dairy farm.”

Host farmer, Edward Fitzgerald, acknowledged the foundation laid by his father, Michael: “There has been a focus on milk quality on this farm for a good number of years. My father, Michael, was runner-up in the same competition during the 1990’s and is still involved in running the farm today”. In terms of expansion, the Co. Limerick farmer said that while milking 75 cows this year, he would consider expansion in the future, but only “up to a herd size that we can manage comfortably, while sustaining the quality of the cow and the quality of the milk.” Asked for the one practice which has really helped in delivering such high quality milk on an on-going basis, he had no hesitation in identifying milk recording. “All cows are milk recorded and have been for as long as I, or my father, can remember. Without a measure of milk quality on an individual cow basis, you cannot make decisions about treatments or culling. We consider a cow with a SCC reading greater
than 200,000 cells/ml as a problem cow.”

Teagasc researcher, David Gleeson, reminded farmers of the importance of the production of high quality milk, if product is to be manufactured according to customer specifications. “Cow cleanliness at milking and proper cleaning of the milking machine is crucial to producing milk with satisfactory total bacterial count (TBC) and thermoduric bacteria count in the bulk tank at milk collection. The Fitzgerald’s are following good cleaning protocols which ensure that their milk is of the highest standard.”

Image: Teagasc